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June 24, 2019

Updated: May 28

As promised, I’ve been moving forward on recording an audio version of the new collection of short stories, “These Stories Are True”. This time last month, even though the final draft of writing had yet to be complete, I was fairly confident this part of the project would have been over by now. But alas; this is not the case.

Reading out loud, I’ve shockingly discovered, doesn’t come easy for me.

To be fair, I’m definitely out of practice. I haven’t read along with congregations at church in years. Most of my verbal routines in restaurants are from memory and I don’t speak as I type. But in my mind, I’ve heard these written words flow with great ease and smooth musicality. And then a few people persuaded me to place a microphone in front of my mouth.

The “record” option in GarageBand is not unfamiliar to me. All those songs - 165 of them! - were demoed using either that technology or the now-ancient Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. But the only dialogue I’d recorded, I believe, comes when the song “Bitch” begins to fade-out and was ad-libbed. Had I written the words down, I now realize, this particular section might have been discarded immediately.

Since when am I no longer capable of verbalizing the words “unusual” or “however” or “randomness” without sounding like I’d just hit my head against a tree? Why do I keep losing my place in the iPad text after making sure the sound levels for my laptop GarageBand are satisfactory? Shouldn’t the last t in “don’t” or “want” be audible to the average listener?

What’s up with my speaking voice??

An EKG will show if you’d once had a heart attack. Hearing myself slur my own words, I was left to wonder if a similar test exists for strokes. The blame for my inability to consistently make a “v” or “u” sound has to be assigned to something.

Years ago, a younger girlfriend noticed my propensity to add a closing s to the word “somewhere”. Erin marked up her own copy of Ann Hood’s book to read “Somewheres Off the Coast of Maine” before letting me borrow it. I’d never noticed this small, I assume Vermont-bred, idiosyncrasy in my speech pattern before. I would eventually manage to eradicate this misstep and was able to correct a similar transgression with the word “anywhere” before she’d had the chance to notice.

But now that I’m recording my own voice to my own essays, that’s me, not some fictional character, turning the word “probably” into “probly”. That’s me, choosing the wrong words to stress, even though I KNOW how the sentence was originally meant to sound. While obviously “WHO do you think I am” is going to have a different meaning than “who do YOU think I am?”, in trying to record my words clearly with at least some passible level of elocution, I stand in great danger of unintentionally lapsing into “who do you think I am - ANYHOW?”

I’m not sure this last observation translates well to the written page… Oh, God - I might have to one day start recording these blogs as well…

Well, obviously, the challenge of producing an audio book is taking far longer than anticipated. But damn - I’ve got to get this over with soon - I can’t be spending my sunny afternoons in Martha’s Vineyard holed up in a room, recording and deleting lines of text for hours at a time.

To be honest, though, I seem to be getting a bit better the more I practice. I wonder what skill will be replaced by what hopefully is an emerging one. Who knows, maybe by the time I finish the longer essays, I’ll no longer remember how to play guitar.

This endeavor was meant to satisfy the friends of who’d wanted audio versions of those other collections - and who knows, maybe I’d find the process of recording fiction easier. Who cares if one of my characters speaks improperly? Or too fast? Or with a mouth full of marbles?

In any case, I’m committed to completing this project as soon as possible. I’m trying to stay positive. I can do this…

I’ll hand off a full set of audio files to website genius Kyle by the time of next month’s blog.

I “probly” will, anyway.


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